On a day like this, rolling out drums to have elaborate celebrations would not have been out of place. The occasion demands that we cull out a holiday and bask in copious euphoria of our victory over military dictatorship through large merry-go-round of convergences – in grand style.
Yes, we would have had this June 12 Democracy Day, the second in the row since the date got statutorily endorsed, celebrated in the manners prescribed above. But that was not to be. Nigeria, and even the entire world had been shut down, almost totally as economies across the word were brought to their knees under the pressure of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, a.k.a. COVID-19.
Earlier than now, things had turned adverse, as nothing had been the same again. Schools and offices had closed. Churches, mosques and other worship places, with the inclusion of other places of large convergence had shut down for some time, in conscious and deliberate bid to stem down the spread of the ravaging virus and send it packing completely from our midst.
Counting the costs of the persistent lockdown experienced lately and the attendant partial shutdown the sad development brought to bear on our economy would be a task that is greatly involving. In counting the costs in right perspectives, one would need to cast a cursory look at each sector / sub-sector of the economy and consider the economic indices for all economic agents involved vis-à-vis their performances before and after the pandemic. This task is better left to a time when the coat gets sufficiently clear to make reliable assessments and evaluation.
For all we know, the Nigerian economy had not been in good shape prior to the time the pandemic set in. Amidst frantic efforts by the incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to revive the tide for it and turn it around positively, all hands seemed not fully on deck for Nigeria’s economic revival, reawakening and revitalisation.
On a Democracy Day like this, we owe it a duty to bring out observations on aspects of our democratic experience which this pandemic emergency ought to reshape, remould and redefine. Before now, aside during sports tournaments andmundial, there are no other times that Nigerians tended to unite across various divides than in periods of emergencies. We saw a lot of cooperation and unity which was demonstrated and which saw us through emergencies like June 12 Actualisation struggle, anti-military campaigns, pro-democracy struggles, war against ethno-religious uprisings, anti-insurgency, anti-cattle rustling and herdsmen invasion, anti-EBOLA campaign, the just-survived economic recession and the likes. The strength in unity comes to the fore and saw the nation and its entire citizenry successfully through all these phases and eras.
Bad and adverse as these periods are, they were, are and will remain replete with golden lessons which we had better leant and picked cues from. One of the major pillars and fulcrums on which successful democratic experiments everywhere hinges is unity of purpose and concerted efforts in confronting their myriads of challenges head-on. This cannot suddenly come alive and become magically operational except lessons of the strength in unity are imbibed and fully internalized in peace times.
The chiefest of all lessons to learn; and which should stick to and remain with us hereafter is that we should permanently build and develop the self-same spirit of strength, determination, courage and unity which adverse situations compel us to embrace and replicate and relive these through peace times. By the time this is done, we would be on the fast track of accelerated progress, growth and development
The lessons and culture of democracy and true democratisation, which should be imbibed by all beyond this day are that we should begin to learn and live truly as a united, strong and self-reliant economy.
It is in doubt whether we have a truly Nigerian spirit. We read of advanced democracies of the world, where utmost preoccupation of all times does not derive from which part of the nation you hail from; but the fact that you are first considered to be bound together by one and the same nationality. Strength and unrelenting resilience and courage should find roots for their dynamics firmly entrenched in this true national spirit
As churches and mosques and other religious centres are being reopened gradually, what should take the central stage of teachings is not what was done and what was not done to affect our practices of the religions during the pandemic. Beyond long-overbeaten doctrinal teachings and doctrines that dichotomise rather than bond us together; focus should change to those aspects that unite us and knit us into a united, indivisible nation and people. This time around, we need to unite in prayers and supplications, as well as other faith-based, spiritual exercises that will enhance our unity in a consistent and time-tested fashion. The fire-brigade approach, whereby we simulate and lay pretentious protestations to oneness whenever troubles come knocking should be flipped overboard.
Our educational institutions are warming up for reopening. It is painful however that in spite of repeated spurious overhaul of our systems of education and apparent constant curricula review, we tend not to have enduring national ethos and values. Gone are the days when these values were visible, operational, cherished and worth living for and dying over. Today, the main focus of budding youths is money and material gains have become prime motivators – all at the expense of moral ethics, cultural values and spiritual development. As a matter of desideratum, we require a complete overhaul of the entire education systems across the rungs of the ladder.
On the first June 12, which was in 1993, Nigerian voters trooped out in their millions to vote, in mass, in unprecedented majority for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of the time and its presidential candidate, BashorunMoshoodKashimawoOlawaleAbiola. This they did, shunning all affiliations and divides – religious, ethnic, tribal, gender, professional and virtually all other considerations and interests. The collective dream then was that the time was ripe for building a New Nigeria, where the rights and privileges of all citizens would be guaranteed and actualised, regardless of the various dividing factors mentioned above.
Beyond the June 12 Election and its annulment, the struggles for true democracy wore on for years until in 1999, when the military regime was ridded from the corridors of power, service and leadership. Indications since then have shown that Nigeria, and Nigerians, in whatever positions or roles they found themselves have derailed and lost focus. We appeared to have misplaced our priorities. We tended to have felt too much gratified over the fact that military junta had been driven from office.
Military or not, our prime focus should be how to move the nation forward on virtually all fronts, how to secure lives and properties for all, how to ensure good living conditions for all and sundry and above all, how to transform our economy into one of prosperity and self-sufficiency. In achieving this, all hands are needed to be on deck: the military inclusive.
Unfortunately, we have been directionless and most of the times, blame game and blame -trading have been the order of the day. Our political focus also has derailed from ideologies. Corruption stinks to high heavens and we lay pretentious claim to an endless search for where we have missed it.
Now, as we celebrate this Democracy Day, with renewed hope of getting set free fully from the clutches of the pandemic, we owe full gratitude to God Almighty. Also, the incumbent administration at the federal level, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, deserves a nod of approval and our gratitude for adopting the day and restoring its full significance as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
Before now, serious questions had been raised on the adoption, since 1999, of May 29 as Democracy Day for the nation. In earlier years of our independence, October 1, the Independence Day doubled as hand-over date for successive administrations and remains branded till date as our National Day. Part of the questions earlier raised; mostly generated since 1999 when another set date of May 29 got adopted was the rationale for the new date and the significance of that particular month and day.
What we could ascertain pertaining to the May 29 date is that its choice was a downward extension of military junta’s treacherous orchestration, aimed at depopularising the sanctity of June 12 and falsifying that the Presidential Elections held on that particular date in 1993 was free, fair, credible and transparent. Even though it was as clear as crystal that we could no longer fix what had been made wrong as far as that election and its annulment are concerned, the spirit of the grave injustice meted out to the principal actors and the teeming Nigerian populace kept haunting the perpetrators of the rape on democracy and those powers who represented them in the reins of government.
Now, we celebrate our hard-earned Democracy Day, the second edition since its full statutory restoration. We sue that all and sundry celebrate the day, fully capturing the mood of the contemporary world. Let us have renewed hope that we shall fully overcome the global pandemic. Let us hope that Nigeria shall be a better placein the post-COVID-19 era, in accordance with the lofty dreams of our founding fathers.
We need sober reflections. We need prayers. We need total rededication. We need to charge ourselves into full responsibility. We all have vital roles to play towards putting in place a better society. We owe a shared responsibility to make the Nigeria Project work. We are all required to join hands and cooperate with government at all tiers to fix our nation and its economy.
In the emerging true Nigerian spirit, old lacklustre attitudes must be buried in the dust of history. We are all enjoined to take renewed responsibility in allaspects, renaissance and reorientation, new value system, complete attitudinal change and can-do spirit, with which we will, without instigation embrace civic responsibilities and obligations, without which we would be heading nowhere.